The humble sambar has been in use in the Indian cuisine for many centuries now. It has been said that its usage dates back to the 15th Century. Over the years, the art of preparation, the taste and the way it is pronounced has been changing ever since. It has several anglicized names such as the Lentil vegetable stew or the Lentil sauce but for most Indians, sambar is the sambar, from East to West and from North to South. Nevertheless, it has become one among the many regular staple Indian breakfast food. The sambar, which is primarily lentil based (Also known as Toor Dal) is used as the main accompaniment along with rice. Another strong contender along with rice is the " idlis", a plate of idlis goes well with a cup of sambar and many would agree that the two cannot be separated.
This dish, rooted in its simplicity has numerous nutritional benefits. The Times of India, in a recent article has quoted saying that the” idli - sambar” is the most nutritious Indian breakfast of the day. It is definitely, an honor for the sambar and so what is the science behind it. A cup of sambar i.e. about 200 gms contains about 300 calories. What powers the sambar, is the heady mix of lentils, this basic pulse is a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and essential vitamins, a variety of vegetables, again a rich source of vitamins and minerals and an adequate dose of the spices which are again a source of Vitamins and Iron and not to mention their anti-oxidant properties. A prescription without saying is that, two cups of sambar a day meets most of a person’s percentage daily value requirement. No matter it is prescribed by many nutritionists as part of the standard diet chart to sick and elderly patients in hospitals.
For those of you, who are uninitiated in the art of Sambar cooking, here is a quick run down from a lame man’s perspective. The sambar is easy to cook with a pressure cooker. Adequate portions of cut vegetables like tomatoes, brinjals, carrots, onions along with a previously soaked cup of lentils goes into the pressure cooker with adequate salt and water. Add a bit of spices like coriander, turmeric, asfoedtida. One can add a pinch of the ready mix sambar powder to enhance the taste. After about 5 to 6 whistles on the pressure cooker, get it down to another vessel. Add tempered mustard and cumin seeds and a couple of pods of red chillies fried in a bit of vegetable oil and galore! What you have is a dish which has stood the test of time. It will not be a surprise to say, that many of our great grand children will come to enjoy it.